Diversity, equity and inclusion: progress in 2023

Rainbow Migration

A summary of key actions we have taken during 2023 to make progress on our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. They are listed under the relevant pillar in ACF's Stronger Foundation's report on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Pillar 1: Invests time and resources in understanding and defining diversity, equity and inclusion
  • We appointed a DEI Coordinator to support activities across the organisation on diversity, equity and inclusion. Their initial priorities include supporting the New Connections programme (see Pillar 5) as well as the development of a framework for assessing the DEI commitments of applicants and organisations we fund (see Pillar 6).
Pillar 2: Produces and reviews strategies that will implement DEI practices
Pillar 3: Collects, tracks and publishes DEI data on its own practices and performance
  • We ran our fourth annual survey of trustees and staff to help us track progress on the diversity of our people. This year’s survey was expanded so that we could also explore pay gap data. We published the analysis in February 2024.
  • We now report annually on who our funding is reaching on our website, as well as in our Annual Report. See our 2023 DEI report of our funding, which includes information about how much of our funding was awarded to supporting and led by population groups most relevant to our strategy, as well as the proportion of our total funding that went to those groups. The population groups in the analysis includes: communities experiencing racial inequity, disabled people, people who are educationally or economically disadvantaged, LGBT+ people, migrants, and women and girls.
  • One of our commitments is to fund more organisations led by and for communities experiencing racial inequity. During 2023, we made 38 grants totalling £9.6m to organisations led by communities experiencing racial inequity. Examples of work we have supported in 2023 includes:
    • Baobab Foundation to support, grow and strengthen organisations led by and serving Black and Global Majority people across the UK.
    • Enact Equality to support their national campaign, policy and advocacy work to advance racial justice in the UK.
    • Friends, Families and Travellers to build capacity within specialist Gypsy, Roma and Traveller organisations and ensure that their voice and evidence is represented at a strategic level informing wider change.
  • We updated our Investment Policy Statement in 2023, which reiterates that DEI is one of the overarching themes in our strategy, and our investment advisors have an ongoing remit to look for funds with diversity considerations amongst their investing teams.
Pillar 4: Has a diverse Board of Trustees and staff team, both in terms of demographics and experience
  • We recruited three new Trustees who joined our Board in September 2023. Together, their experience spans the civil service, environment, charity, media, and legal sectors. Trustees also elected a member of Esmée’s Investment Committee to the Board of Trustees, who will join from January 2024. Their experience includes financial services, technology and climate.
  • Trustees also committed to looking at different ways to recruit new Trustees and advisory panel members from a wide range of backgrounds, including young people.
Pillar 5: Reflects and implements DEI practices in its funding activities
  • We launched our New Connections programme to find and support newer, smaller, and historically under-funded organisations who do not meet our funding criteria for annual income and governance. We aim to support up to 20 organisations who are led by and supporting communities experiencing racial inequity. In addition to offering grants of £60k, we are also setting up a peer network, co-designed by those funded, to enable peer support and learning.
  • We are working with our Involving Young People Collective to co-design a new approach to funding youth-led culture and creativity. The new programme was launched in February 2024 and focuses our support on work led by and for young people who are underrepresented in arts and culture.
  • We shared our new social investment strategy to identify opportunities and lay out a roadmap that enables us to shape investment to support our mission. We hope it enables us to do better in making our social investment more inclusive and equitable, as well as support us in contributing to a more distributive, regenerative economy.
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion is a key consideration across all our funding. Whilst this is primarily through our priorities in our aim for A Fairer Future, it is also a key consideration in our other aims, as well as how we use our Funding Plus and infrastructure support. For instance:
    • In Our Natural World, we used our Tools support to commission research into DEI initiatives in the environment sector (see Pillar 8). We have also been proactive in finding and supporting smaller, grassroots organisations working towards our priorities that are led by and for communities experiencing racial inequity.
    • In Creative, Confident Communities, we supported the University of Manchester’s Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity to carry out a series of public assemblies on racial justice.
    • We partnered with Sumerian Foundation, MariaMarina Foundation and the Access Foundation towards inclusive social investment and mentoring for social enterprises led by and for minoritised communities.
    • We provide Funding Plus support to organisations seeking to improve DEI within their organisation.
Pillar 6: Expresses its DEI commitment, policies and practices publicly
  • We have started to develop a framework for assessing the DEI commitments of applicants and organisations we fund and aim to share our plans in 2024.
Pillar 7: Makes itself accountable to those it serves and supports
  • We shared a blog with the actions we have taken to date in response to feedback gathered from research including the applicant perception survey carried out by nfpResearch and a DEI review of our funding practice by TSIC.
  • Foundation Practice Rating, a joint initiative to improve practice across the funding sector by assessing foundations on their practice in terms of diversity, accountability and transparency, published its annual report covering 2023. We shared a blog with our assessment, along with actions we have taken since the last report and our commitments to do better.
  • We now have a page on our website with all the ways people can provide feedback on Esmée and we commit to sharing updates with actions we have taken in response.
  • We worked with nfpResearch on a second applicant perception survey, which was carried out in early 2024. We will share the results in shortly.
Pillar 8: Uses its own power to advocate for and advance DEI practices
  • We commissioned a piece of work to review existing and planned initiatives aiming to address a lack of diversity in the environment sector in the UK. With this review, we want to ensure we avoid duplication and can better identify gaps in delivery. We published the report along with a blog on our reflections and next steps in 2024. This builds on our earlier support to sector wide initiatives such as the RACE report and the Wildlife and Countryside Link Route Map for more ethnic diversity in the Environment Sector and the Scottish Ethnic Minority Environment Network.
  • We are working with Ocean and Coastal Futures to explore how to accelerate change within the UK marine sector. We also provided funding towards a bursary for people from underrepresented communities to attend the Coastal Futures conference in 2024.
  • We use all our tools to support organisations leading the way on DEI, as well as those looking to improve DEI within their organisation. As well as commissioning research and collaborating with others, we also highlight important DEI initiatives in our communications and provide Funding Plus support to organisations we fund. In 2023, we surveyed organisations we fund about Funding Plus-type support, and 16% of respondents said they would benefit from Funding Plus support towards diversity, equity and inclusion and/or anti-racism work.
Pillar 9: Collaborates with others to promote and implement DEI practices
  • We are part of an arts funders collaboration (with Art Fund, John Ellerman Foundation and Paul Hamlyn Foundation) to understand how we can best support arts, heritage and culture organisations to engage with UK history in an inclusive way. This includes co-funding the Museum Association’s Decolonisation Confidence and Skills programme. We also (with Art Fund and Paul Hamlyn Foundation) commissioned British Future to carry out research on Inclusive Histories, and they published their report in September 2023. It explores how arts and culture organisations are reflecting the complexity of our shared past, engaging communities to help shape the work, and navigating polarised responses.
  • Together with Rosa Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund, we commissioned research to map the UK women and girls’ sector and its funding. Published in April 2023, the report found that only 1.8% of total grants awarded went to the women and girls’ sector, and that funding for organisations supporting Black and minoritised girls is even more stark. The report also outlined a series of recommendations for funders and the Government.
  • Together with Smallwood Trust, Pilgrim Trust and Trust for London, we hosted a roundtable to explore the routes that disabled women’s organisations have into power and decision-making that impacts their lives. The funders will meet again in January 2024 to reflect on the findings and consider future work.

Further actions planned for 2024

  • We are developing plans for further DEI training for staff and Trustees in the first quarter of 2024.
  • We will review our recruitment practices to ensure they are inclusive.
  • We will set up advisory panels for our work in A Fairer Future and Creative, Confident Communities, which will include experts by experience. As with our advisory panel for Our Natural World, they will play a key role in informing our strategy towards our aims.
  • We will use learning from initiatives such as New Connections as well as external initiatives to review how we understand and define impact, as well as our expectations for organisations – particularly for community-led organisations, and the implications of our strategy to make fewer, but longer grants.
  • We will consider the recommendations made by initiatives including the RACE Report, Foundation Practice Rating, as well as research we commissioned around DEI, to help us identify further actions to help us make progress.

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